Shotgun Lovesongs gets everything correct for me.....the tone, style, characters, story arc....all hit a sweet spot on page one and just keep on rolling! My bleary Heart-A-Rama eyes gave in on page eighty-one, forcing me to walk away from a book that is sure to make my top 10 list. Setting it down has given me time to mull and appreciate Butler's work more than I might have had I flown through it.
An overwhelming stillness blankets this novel, like those long, deep inhales you take to clear your head - and suddenly the world is right again. Butler takes us along on a reunion tour of sorts - four life long friends reunited - Lee, the tired rock star, Ronny the marginally brain injured rodeo rider, the obscenely rich boy Kip, and Lee, the farmer. Reuniting in their small town near Eau Clair Wisconsin, the four make heartbreaking discoveries about their past and the fragile bonds of friendship.
For me, the raw emotion pouring out of Butler's prose hangs about and pops to mind when least expected. In fact, I found one passage so breathtaking that I emailed the author, knowing full well that fan mail passes though a publicist before, if ever, reaching the writer. But guess what? He read my note and sent me a FB friend request - not a request through his "personality" page, but through his real page where he keeps in touch with buddies. Congratulations to me.
Now remember, I am less than one-third through, but at this point, the book continues to remind me of the importance of home and the little things that keep some here and call others back. In that respect, yes, Thornton Wilder's Our Town comes to mind. I am also guessing that anyone who has ever moved from home will recognize the fear of disappointment that often accompanies returning. That universal theme resonates in countless pieces of fiction, but that does not dim the brilliance of Butler's treatment.
He also explores the nature of male friendship. How does it differ from female friendship? Does it really differ? Made me think of Art, a play originally written in French by Yasmina Reza. The friendship of three men is examined through their reaction to an all white painting. Incapable of sharing their feelings directly, they weave them in, out and about the painting - subtle at first, but as tensions rise, we see how their differing opinions on this work of "art" actually represent their multi layered feelings about each other. Funny and fascinating play.
So, that's all I have about SL at this point. I also knocked off two plays this weekend in an attempt to find a fall show to direct...The Queen of Bingo and A Couple of White Chicks Sitting Around Talking. Both are comedies but the second one has many poignant moments as well. I'm looking for a small cast show; Chicks has two characters and Bingo has three. I keep asking myself if I have the heart to ask two people to memorize a full length script...guess I just have to ambush some folks at moments of vulnerability! Yup...that's the plan.....
Nick Butler will be at the Manitowoc Public Library 6:00, June 13.
Thanks for stopping by.